If you’ve made it this far into 2023 with your commitment to the gym still intact, then a huge congratulations is overdue. New Year’s resolutions can be hard to stick with, but pushing yourself to get into a consistent workout routine is key to achieving your fitness goals.
However, some people find that their regular exercise routine may stop yielding results after a while, which means they have hit a plateau. When this happens, changing up your usual set or trying a different type of exercise could give you the boost that you need to keep hitting those milestones.
But before you hop off the treadmill and head straight for the weights, there are a few things fitness experts say you should do to make sure you get the most out of the exercise you undertake and enjoy yourself at the same time.
Lillie Bleasley, head coach at Passa on behalf of London Landmarks Half Marathon, says you should examine what results you’re trying to gain and what your goals are over the coming weeks and month before you switch up your routine.
“If you’re purely exercising for enjoyment, then varying the types of exercise you’re doing and trying new things – such as spin classes, pilates, or boxing – can help to mix things up and keep your motivation and enjoyment high,” she says. “In turn, this means we’re more likely to stick to our routines and make sure we’re heading to our classes or sessions.”
But if your goal is to train for a specific event, for example a marathon, then Bleasley suggests sticking to your current routine as moving away from it “will be detrimental when it comes to the results you will achieve”.
If you feel stuck in a rut, you can try changing up the specifics of your training, she says. “Do you currently run in the evening? If so, why not give a morning run a go, or break up your day by heading out at lunchtime. Or are you just running lower heart rate, relaxed runs – try adding in some fartlek sessions (interval or speed training) or speed work to mix this up.”
Changing your routine doesn’t mean going from zero to 100, as pushing yourself too far without proper guidance could result in serious injury. Instead, try making subtle changes in order to progress your workout safely and effectively, says personal trainer and women’s health coach Kate Row-Ham.
“For example, if you’ve been doing push-ups you could make these more challenging and introduce dumbbells and instead do a chest press. Think about making your sessions more challenging and always try to make progress. If you’ve been running on a treadmill, why not take it outside, especially as the weather improves?” she says.
Row-Ham encourages people looking to take their workouts to the next level to lift weights to “challenge the body and see the benefits”. “It enables you to be more creative and can help you avoid boredom and stay motivated,” she adds. “I would suggest assessing your routine every four to six weeks and making small tweaks rather than completely changing the whole routine.”
Bleasley adds that it is important to ease the body into a change in your routine, and to make sure you are “upping [your] recovery game as well”. Her advice to runners who want to try something different is not to add too much mileage or speed work too quickly.
“Try adding in one effort-based speed session per week such as 1-2km relaxed warm-up, six to two minutes at 6-7/10 effort (this should feel like you could say a few words whilst running but not hold a conversation), and then 1-2km cool-down. If you’re fairly new to running then start off with 2-3/10 efforts and gradually increase this as you go.”
She also recommends adding yoga or other stretching and strength work to your routine to help change things up while “reaping the rewards of being a stronger runner, avoid injury and improve speed”.
With any change you make to your exercise routine, the top priority is to make sure you are keeping yourself safe and avoiding injury. Row-Ham recommends taking things slow, particularly if you are introducing new exercises and using new equipment for the first time.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help,” she adds. “Always make sure you warm up and cool down and, most importantly, factor in rest days so your muscles have time to recover from this new discipline.”